About Us

New Name, Same Heart

Our Kehilah is Starting a New Chapter

Leffell Family Letter

Dear Parents, Students, and Alumni,
March 2019

We are honored and humbled that Schechter Westchester will be renamed The Leffell School. Schechter Westchester has been our home since 1992. Our children, Ben, Adam, Lauren, and Ari and our daughter-in-law Jenn, learned in a supportive, academically rigorous environment nurtured by outstanding teachers where they gained the foundation of their Jewish knowledge and identity. Our closest friends are parents that we met on Ben’s first day of kindergarten 27 years ago. Schechter Westchester has an enormous place in our hearts.

Schechter Westchester’s beautiful campuses serve as a backdrop for the outstanding learning experienced by our students each and every day. Yet, our school is so much more than its buildings, equipment, curriculum, and programming. Schechter Westchester is, before anything else, a kehilah of people joining forces to enrich the lives of the students who seek a rich Jewish education.

Rabbi Elazar said Rabbi Hanina said: Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as it is said: “And all your children [banayich] shall be taught of Adonai, and great shall be the peace of your children.” (Isa. 54:13) Do not read ‘your children’ [banayich], but ‘your builders’ [bonayich]. -Berakhot 64a: 1-15

Leading the school as Board of Trustees President, envisioning and creating the High School, and volunteering in the classroom have enriched our lives tremendously. In the face of so much distraction in the world, our children, the builders and future of our community, are a source of hope and strength. Thank you for naming the school in honor of our family. We look forward to seeing The Leffell School flourish.

Warmly,

Lisa and Michael Leffell

Frequently Asked Questions about our New Name

List of 18 frequently asked questions.

  • Why is our name changing?

    For more than five decades, we have been motivated by our fervent belief that wholehearted engagement with Judaism can coexist with academic excellence and full immersion in the modern world. The Schechter Day School Network, with which we had been associated for many years, was merged into the broader Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools in 2016—and while we have had no formal denominational affiliation since that time, we have retained the distinctive set of Jewish values and principles for which our school has come to be known since its founding. We now have the opportunity to introduce The Leffell School to the wider community as an independent institution and re-affirm our commitment to the core values that have long grounded our approach to education and community-building. This will enable us to broaden the appeal of our school without fundamentally changing our core values or program.
  • Why The Leffell School?

    Our new name honors the extraordinary commitment of a family whose unparalleled dedication, leadership, wisdom, and philanthropy have nurtured our school for decades. Lisa and Michael Leffell have embodied passionate devotion to the institution since their oldest son entered kindergarten in 1992. Michael Leffell has served for more than 20 years on our board of trustees, including 13 as president, leading with with inspiration and fortitude through periods of both exciting growth and field-wide challenge. Eager to ensure that the school, which had offered a program only through eighth grade, would serve students during their formative teenage years, Michael became a pioneering visionary behind the establishment of our High School, which opened in 2001. He worked tirelessly with professional and lay leaders including Headmaster Emeritus Dr. Elliot Spiegel, Lifetime Chairman of the Board M. Mac Schwebel z”l, Gabe Nechamkin, and David Reis to transform our school into an immersive K-12 Jewish educational institution.

    The Leffells have dedicated thousands of hours to recruiting students and staff, volunteering in the school, raising funds, and setting the overall direction of the organization, and we continue to turn to them as trusted advisors even years after their children graduated. For over 25 years, Lisa and Michael have also helped to sustain the school through their financial generosity, culminating in their recent commitment to endow their Annual Fund gift, so that generations of families can benefit from their support in perpetuity.
  • When was the name change be effective?

    We will officially become The Leffell School on July 1, 2019.
  • Is it common for independent schools, including Jewish Schools, to change their name?

    Yes. Independent schools, including Jewish schools, change their names for a variety of reasons. Some schools may change to refresh their brands and reflect an evolution in their identity or ideology. Other schools choose new names to recognize a donor or a family who has played a leadership role in the school. Additionally, many of the schools once affiliated with the Schechter Day School Network, like ours, have taken the opportunity to express their independence by changing their names. We have been in touch with six different Jewish independent schools that have changed their names within the past decade, and all reported that the process was a smooth one. Several also shared valuable lessons that we can learn from their experiences.
  • Does this mean that our school is no longer a part of the Conservative movement?

    Our formal connection to the institutions of the Conservative movement ended in 2016, when the Schechter Day School Network was merged into Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools. While our educational philosophy continues to evolve to meet the needs of our community and the demands of the modern world, as it always has, it remains grounded in our historical emphasis on traditional Jewish observance, culture, text, and language, embedded in a fully modern American context—principles that have formed the core of Conservative movement ideology for decades.

    Our school has long been open to students from a wide variety of Jewish backgrounds, affiliated with all denominations. Since our doors opened, we’ve embraced Jewish educational principles that equip students to be fully immersed in Judaism and fully immersed in the world—principles that are appealing to people with a broad range of Jewish affiliations—and that remain a fundamental element of our identity after our name change.
  • How will this impact the school's accreditations and affiliations?

    We will continue to maintain our accreditation with the New York State Association of Independent Schools, as well as our connection with Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.
  • Does this change the school's governance structure?

    No. Our new name will not impact the independent governance structure or our board of trustees.
  • Will Jewish observance expectations change?

    No. We will maintain our present standards of Jewish practice within the school community, even as we continue to welcome families from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds and celebrate this ideological diversity.
  • As an independent Jewish school, what values and principles will ground The Leffell School?

    The core values that have motivated our day-to-day work for a generation are not changing: Ahavat Yisrael (love of Israel), Gemilut Chasadim (social action), Kavod (respect), Kehilah (community), Talmud Torah (lifelong learning and study), and Tefilah and Shmirat Mitzvot (observance)

    We also remain rooted in the principles that have guided us throughout the years—principles that resonate with many members of the Jewish community, irrespective of denominational affiliation:
    • Insistence that academic excellence and intellectual seriousness can coexist with wholehearted engagement with Judaism
    • Celebration of traditional Jewish observance, culture, text, and language, as well as the land, people, and State of Israel
    • Emphasis on dynamic, evolving, joyful, individually-relevant modes of immersion in Jewish life, within an anchoring framework of halakhic practice
    • Prioritization of the responsibility to base religious action in ethical principles, to serve the community, and to conduct oneself with respect at all times
    • Accentuation of the notion that individual identity is strengthened through age-appropriate interaction with people representing diverse backgrounds and multiple approaches to belief and practice
  • What are you going to do to make sure my kid(s) feel like their school is still the same as the one they attended last year?

    Our name may be changing, but our values, educational program, and commitments to you are not. While our signage may look different, the experience of our students and their families will feel the same. We will continue to be the same caring kehilah (community), driven by the same mission, values, commitments, educational philosophies, and Jewish practices that have motivated this school for more than 50 years. We may have a new name, but we have the same heart.
  • How will we continue to engage our alumni now that the school will have a new name?

    We are proud of the close relationship that we have fostered with our 2000+ alumni and look forward to continuing to strengthen our connection with them. As we change our name, we are also celebrating the rich history and heritage of Solomon Schechter School of Westchester and honoring the role that this institution has played in the lives of these graduates for many years. Through this transition process, we will be looking to emphasize continuity and strengthen connections, and we look forward to engaging alumni in this process directly.
  • How will you make sure that colleges and universities know that we are the same school?

    Our students are accepted to more than 100 colleges and universities each year, and we have close, personal relationships with admissions officers at nearly all of these institutions. Just as we connect directly with each of them when we make other significant changes in the school (such as curriculum or personnel), we will ensure that they are aware of our name change. We began contacting these schools immediately so that they know to anticipate the change, and through the 2020-2021 school year, materials that we send to colleges will include both names in order to make absolutely sure that they know that they are dealing with the same school. We expect that this process will go completely smoothly, as it has for other independent schools that have changed their names.
  • Does the school still need contributions to the Annual Fund?

    Yes. Even after the name has changed, our ability to continue providing students with the highest quality general and Jewish education will be as reliant as ever on the generous philanthropic contributions of our community. Tuition does not cover the full cost of providing a top-tier education. We are working to build a substantial endowment, and the Leffell family and others have generously agreed to play a major role in this effort by endowing their Annual Fund gifts—but even once these endowment funds are in place, endowment earnings will cover only a fraction of our operating and scholarship needs. A strong Annual Fund is a crucial component of our ability to continue innovating and keep our school accessible to as many families as possible, and this will not change with our new name.

    Every contribution to our Annual Fund, irrespective of its size, is much needed and represents an investment in the future leadership of the Jewish community and the world and an important vote of confidence in the mission of our school. We are incredibly grateful to each of our donors.
  • Will the tuition assistance program change?

    No. We believe that every family and student who wants a Jewish education should be able to have one – and that won’t change with our name. We made a promise to our school families that to the degree possible, we would never let tuition be a barrier to accessing the highest-quality Jewish education. We intend to keep that promise with the support of our community, which so generously enabled us to make the commitment in the first place.
  • Will tuition change?

    There are many factors that go into calculating the cost of tuition, and we do not expect that these factors will be affected by a change in the name of the school. As noted above, we are in the process of growing our endowment, which ultimately will play a significant role in the long-term sustainability of the school. Since gifts that are intended to endow historical Annual Fund contributions provide important long-range security but do not fundamentally alter the school’s financial structure, we remain as reliant as ever on tuition revenues and Annual Fund giving. Affordability remains one of the primary challenges for many families seeking a Jewish education, and we are committed to addressing this challenge without compromising on the quality of the student experience.
  • Will the curriculum change?

    Our curriculum is always evolving to meet current standards in education. But our name change is not connected to this process. We remain committed to building on the successes of our academic and co-curricular programs and providing students with a foundation for life that prepares them to meet the ever-changing demands of the twenty-first-century world.
  • Will our mascot change?

    No. We will still be the Lions.
  • Will our school colors change?

    No. Keep your green and white to cheer on our student-athletes from the sidelines.
Lower School Campus (K-5)
30 Dellwood Road
White Plains, NY 10605
914-948-3111

Upper School Campus (6-12)
555 West Hartsdale Avenue
Hartsdale, NY 10530
914-948-8333